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Archive for November, 2016

Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Nine)

The Excitable Exclamation Point!

 

Today we’re looking at a “quicky” punctuation mark because its uses are quite limited.

Most writers agree that the exclamation point is not in much danger of being used incorrectly. But I would venture to say that its greatest misuse is OVERUSE!!!!!! (Case in point: Never use more than one exclamation point consecutively, no matter how emphatic or dramatic you’re trying to be!!! The second and third exclamation points in a row actually negate the effect or mood you’re trying to portray, so take it easy. Use just one!)

So, when do we use the exclamation point and how often? Well, the obvious use of the exclamation point is to inflect fear, panic, surprise, irony, pain, anger, or a command. To use more than one every several pages of your writing is also OVERUSE! So watch that excitable little mark well! (I’ve already used nine in this blog [ho hum]; are you getting the point?)

Since this mark’s use is limited, we’ll just cite some popular examples for this little guy:

Example One (Fear): “Watch out,” Susie cried. “The tiger got out of his cage!” (Note that the exclamation point is inside the quotation marks.)

Example Two (Panic): Mabel forgot to turn off the stove, and the house is burning down!

Example Three (Surprise): I can’t believe I just won that car!

Example Four (Irony): Bill boarded one plane, and his wife boarded another!

Example Five (Pain): Ow!

Example Six (Anger): “Stop kicking the door!” Jane screamed to the top of her lungs at Herman.

Example Seven (A command): Stand up and shut up!

Let’s mention one more example, which is perfectly legal, even though many “English pros” might call it into question, since it IS a question:

Example Eight (At the end of a question that is essentially an exclamation):

How could Barry possibly have lifted that!

“When will you ever learn!” Carrie’s anger with her puppy was obvious.

So there you have the eight most common uses of the exclamation point. Use it sparingly and wisely, and your writing will have an extra spark that will impress even the editors!

Next time we’ll have a look at quirky quotation marks. These can be quite confusing, especially when you have a quote within a quote, so until next time happy writing!

Marsha

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Eight)

 The Itinerant Italics

Are you a writer who used italics frequently? Or perhaps you’re not quite sure when to use this little punctuation perk? Such was the case with me until I did a little research and study to make sure I was using italics correctly.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the most common way to use italics is mostly in fiction when using Direct Internal Discourse.

What in the world is Direct Internal Discourse?

Oh, that’s the “formal” fancy term for expressing someone’s inner thoughts. This is the most frequent use of italics. So let’s look at some examples of that plus some examples of other uses for italics:

Example One: Bill looked at Susie and thought, Now’s the time to ask her to marry me.

Example Two:   That’s just the sweater I want! Marge asked the clerk, “How much is that pullover cardigan?”

Exception: Do NOT italicize an inner thought that is indirect or paraphrased.

Example: Steve had been telling himself not to buy that car for the last week.

 

 Citing Sources

Although the AP Stylebook says to put all “composition” titles in quotation marks except the Bible and reference books, the CMOS prefers using italics for large titles:

Example One: Gone With the Wind is one of the most powerful movies ever made.

Example Two: One of my favorite books is The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

Example Three: Have you subscribed to the Reader’s Digest again this year?

Exception: Smaller components of such works, such as articles, chapter titles,

song titles, poem titles, and episodes should be in quotation marks.

Example: Barry read an amazing article about chipmunks entitled “The Nuts’ Best Friend” in this month’s Pennsylvania Magazine.

 

Animal Noises, Sounds, Ringing Phones, Etc.

In fiction, words that depict sounds other than dialogue are written in italics:

Example One:   Woof! Woof! Barney, Pete’s dog, barked his head off!

Example Two:   S-q-u-e-a-k …. “Who’s there?” Angie screamed.

Example Three: R-i-n-g …. Philip hurried to the front door, hoping he’d see Angie.

 

Foreign Words and Phrases

Unless you’re writing about Russian spies or Amish Ordnungs, this italics rule might mean little to you. However, whenever quoting foreign words or phrases, use italics. In the case of using the foreign words in fiction, they are usually italicized the first time as an introduction but are not italicized throughout the novel.

Example One: Henrietta’s German mother taught her to say ich liebe dich, (I love you), which helped Henrietta express her true feelings.

Example Two: In her Amish Ordnung, Ruth was the only alt maedel over twenty-five years who wasn’t married yet.

 

Italics for Emphasis

Often, in trying to express emphasis, writers will mistakenly use quotation marks instead of italics in a sentence. However, the italics is the proper way to go to express emphasis in a sentence:

Example One: Fritz made a very conscious effort to go on a diet this time.

Example Two: “Are you really going to drive to Florida by yourself?” Harry asked Bob.

 

Quoting a Word or Phrase

This use of the italics is probably most used in nonfiction. When citing words or discussing phrases, italicize the word or phrase in discussion:

Example One: The use of the word salvation in many of our traditional hymns has a powerful message.

Example Two: The shed blood of Jesus is one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.

So, there you have the most common uses of the italics. Take a look at your own writings, see if you can incorporate a few italics here and there, and give your manuscript a little extra spice. As long as italics aren’t overused, this little punctuation perk can add some life to your work. So go for it.

Next time we’ll look at the exclamation point! This little jot and tittle is probably one of the most misused punctuation marks in the English language!

Happy writing!

Marsha

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While 

(Post Number Seven) 

The Flippant Ellipsis

 The little ellipsis, that is, three little periods in a row … is a quirky little punctuation form that tricks many a good writer, mainly because the writer might be confusing its use with other punctuation marks that would be more effective.

Let’s take a look at the most common uses for the ellipsis and some examples of how to use it properly. By the way, the plural of ellipsis is ellipses.

A Beginning and End of a Quote

Since it is assumed that you are taking a quote from a larger context in most cases, the ellipsis points should NOT be placed before or after a scripture verse or quoted passage unless the quote is a sentence fragment:

Example One:   “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9  (No ellipsis is placed anywhere because the verse is quoted in its entirety.)

Example Two:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith ….” Ephesians 2:8a  (Ellipsis WITH a period)

Yes that’s right. When you use an ellipsis at the end of a sentence fragment, and it is followed by either a reference, another complete sentence or verse, add a period to the ellipsis.

Fragmented Speech

This is probably the most popular use for the ellipsis. The three little dots should be used to indicate faltering or fragmented speech that implies uncertainty, confusion, distress, and the like:

Example One: “The horse … it’s running away … with the child on its back!” yelled Tom.

Example Two: “Oh, dear, … my new glasses … where did I put them?” Bill asked his wife.

Example Three: When Sue woke up she asked, “Where am I … huh … was I dreaming?”

Omissions

Use an ellipsis anytime you are writing a sentence, passage, or Bible verse that you’ve purposely omitted part. The ellipsis in this structure is used most often with scripture verses:

Example One: Psalm 30:5 states, “For his anger endureth but a moment; … weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Example Two: “… but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation ….”   (1 Timothy 4:12b)

 

When to Use the Period at the End of the Ellipsis (Known as the Four-dot Ellipsis)

Besides using the four-dot ellipsis at the end of a quoted scripture verse as in the previous example, remember to use it when you have another complete sentence following the fragment and ellipsis:

Example One: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for …. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”   (Hebrews 11:1, 3)

Example Two: Jerry couldn’t help wondering why Jane was so late for her rendezvous with him at the restaurant. I hope she didn’t forget …. No, she didn’t forget, he told himself.  She’s just running a little late, as usual.

Spacing with an Ellipsis

Although I’ve seen differences with this rule at different publishing houses, I believe the most popular rule is whenever using an ellipsis in the middle of a sentence, put a space before and after it:

Example: “You may go out for recess … if you’ve finished your seatwork,” the teacher told her class.

Whenever using an ellipsis at the beginning or ending of a quote, do NOT insert a space between the ellipsis and the quotation mark:

Example One: “Well, I believe so ….”

Example Two: “… as I said before.”

So, there you have examples of the most common uses for the ellipsis. Just remember that when using it at the end of a sentence or a quote, the ellipsis indicates confusion or uncertainty. If you’re trying to portray a character’s speech abruptly interrupting another character’s speech, then use an em dash, not an ellipsis:

Example: Fred chased after his little brother Tommy in the yard and yelled, “You little brat! I’m going to—”

“You’re going to what?” Tommy sassed back.

(And remember to put your quotation mark at the end first then backspace to insert the em dash or your quotation mark will be backwards.)

Using an ellipsis at the end of Fred’s dialogue would indicate that he was thinking about something else to say and had time to do so. But that’s not the implication here. We want to imply that Tommy cut Fred’s words right off.

I trust this will help you to decide to be a little more daring in your writing and use an ellipsis once in a while. Different punctuation marks do make a difference. They bring your writing style to life and keep your readers hooked!

Next time we’ll look at the itinerant italics.

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On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Six)

The Punctual Period

Kissy.Smiley.Face

Are you kidding me? We’re going to talk about periods? That little miniscule dot at the end of a declarative sentence that everyone knows belongs there to complete the thought? “Why waste the time?” you’re probably asking. “Let’s move on. I know everything there is to know about periods.”

Well, let’s see if you do. I’m going to list some of the most frequent uses (besides its obvious use at the end of every declarative sentence) and some of its misuses. You’ll either yawn your way through this blog post or you’ll raise your eyebrows in wow-I-didn’t-know-that surprise.

Let’s play “Which one is correct?” Below are samples of different uses of periods. In each set, one use is correct; the other is not. Choose one from each set that you think is the right one. The correct answers are listed at the end of the blog. If you’re a period genius, and you get 100%, let me know, and we’ll brag about you on Facebook. (Today you’re getting a taste of what it’s like to be an editor):

Sample One:

A.) When John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1), he was referring to Jesus Christ.

B.)   When John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), he was referring to Jesus Christ.

Sample Two:

A.)   When God asked Adam where he was after the fall, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 KJV)

B.)     When God asked Adam where he was after the fall, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10 KJV).

Sample Three: (A block quotation)

A.)     Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

B.)     Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Sample Four – a postscript after the salutation in a letter:

A.)   P.S. Tell Susie I’ll be at the game on Friday.

B.)     PS  Tell Susie I’ll be at the game on Friday. (No periods after the “P” and “S.”

Sample Five – abbreviation of the state of North Carolina:

A.)   N.C.

B.)   NC

Sample Six:

A.)     The Smithsonian Institute is in Washington, D.C., for many years.

B.)     The Smithsonian Institute is in Washington, DC, for many years.

Sample Seven:

A.)   Brian’s new third grade teacher is Ms Batdorf. (No period after Ms)

B.)   Brian’s new third grade teacher is Ms. Batdorf.

Sample Eight:

A.)   Margie just moved to 678 N.W. Lane Street in Albany.

B.)     Margie just moved to 678 NW Lane Street in Albany. (No periods with the abbreviation for North West)

Sample Nine:

A.)     The time period “Before Christ” is represented with the letters B.C. on legal documents.

B.)     The time period “Before Christ” is represented with the letters BC on legal documents. ( No periods with BC)

Sample Ten:

A.)   Herbie’s appointment at the dentist was for 11:00 am, but he forgot all about it. (No periods with the abbreviation for ante meridiem)

B.)   Herbie’s appointment at the dentist was for 11:00 a.m., but he forgot all about it.

Answers:

Letter B is correct for all samples except for samples five and six; both answers are correct for samples five and six.

So, do we have any period geniuses in the crowd? If you think any of my answers are wrong, then you’ll have to argue with 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, over which I labored for over an hour, studying these period options. There are many other period issues addressed in the CMOS, of which I have not the time nor the space to mention. So if you’re into mastering the Period Technique, get your CMOS out of the closet and start studying!

Hopefully, this little bit of information I’ve shared will help you handle the little speck of ink we call a “period” more skillfully the next time you tackle one of your writing projects. If you’re brave enough, go to the Writers of Any Genre group on Facebook, and let us know how you did.

Next time, we’re going to look at the flippant ellipsis.

Happy writing!

Marsha

Watch for updates concerning next July’s Montrose Christian Writers Conference. We have a dynamite faculty lined up, including film actor Torry Martin, Jim Hart from Hartline, four editors/authors from publishing companies plus eleven other best-selling authors and the music specialists, Donna and Conrad Krieger.

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

www.marshahubler.com

P.S. If you haven’t been receiving my periodic Montrose Christian Writers Conference newsletter and you’d like to be on the mailing list, please contact me. A tremendous faculty has committed and promises to present dynamite classes for all aspects of writing.

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 8

THE LONG RIDE HOME

Skye finally finds out what happened

to her real parents.

 book-8-keystone-stables

http://www.amazon.com/Long-Ride-Home-Keystone-Stables-ebook/dp/B003QP3XEQ/ref=pd_sim_351_4?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JzncnOpKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_OU01_AC_UL320_SR206%2C320_&refRID=0WD7GM9G0BRSCZKCKZFM

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